Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stairway to Heaving: The Hanging Rock 12K Race Report

I celebrated St. Patrick's Day last Saturday in true "Braveheart" style by running the Hanging Rock 12K in Danbury, NC. This is part of the "Carolina Mountain Goat" Trail Race series, put on by the good folks at Go Run Trails:
The race had a very user friendly start time of 9am, so I got to sleep in (somewhat) at the hotel before I headed out to Hanging Rock state park. The start was delayed for 20 minutes or so while the EMT unit covering our race was dispatched to handle an emergency in another part of the park. Finally, we were off! We ran a bit on pavement past the visitor's center and then on to the trail. The course was technical, and there were dire warnings from the race director regarding rocks, roots and stairs. She was not lying.
I am always envious of my other running friend's race reports that seem to capture every tiny detail of their race. I am only a week removed from Hanging Rock, yet it all seems like a blur already!
Now that I was on the trail, I steadily navigated my way amongst the rocks and roots. I had heard talk of the stairs, the endless stairs, and anxiously awaited their arrival. Before I knew it, there they were, stretched out before me. I reverted to my power walk and began the ascent.
After about 10 minutes of climbing these !#$@% stairs my power walk had turned to a rather "anaemic walk", and I was convinced that the good Lord himself would greet me at the summit, hand me a Gu, and a copy of the ten commandments.

Finally, after endless turns and false summits, I was at the top of Moore's Knob. Trying desperately to catch my ragged breath, I began the descent, which was not much relief due to the large rocks strewn along the trail and the quad tingling pitch of the trail. "Pick up your feet!" I muttered to myself as I began scuffing the rocks and catching my toes on the various roots and other obstacles. My mind flashed back to the rather portly EMT manning the ambulance at the start area. "Do not get hurt out here Geno, rescue could be hours away".
Then things began looking up. I had caught back up to the small group that had gapped me on the stairs, just as we completed our descent. The trail now flattened out to a very runnable section of smooth dirt with only the odd stone or root along it. I picked up the pace, and settled in behind two other folks and away down the trail we went. I briefly checked my Garmin, and it read we were about 6 miles into it. not knowing quite what remained in front of me, I slowed my pace slightly to save a little bit for the end. Now my metric conversion skills are not the sharpest, but 12K seems to be about 7.2 miles, so I was somewhat surprised at 6.5 miles to hear a bystander shout "finish strong!" as I power walked up a slight incline. Snapping out of my daze, I saw the finish line beckoning a mere 100 yards away! S**t!! if I had known that, I would have kept the hammer dropped! I dashed across the line, finishing in 1:30:28, 58th out of 86 competitors. I attribute the disparity of the Garmin to it not registering the switchbacks, or a loss of signal along the course due to linking up to an old Russian satellite. Regardless, I was happy with the finish, and happy to report no appendages were harmed during the running of this race!